Posts Tagged ‘Canaries in the coal mine
[ Click above to embiggen: Is this the birth of a new meme and a handy warning sign for economic doom on the horizon? ]
A few years ago, a boyfriend I had at the time named Jason took me to a popular breakfast-only restaurant here in Chicago called Orange…which was notorious for not allowing any substitutions or alterations to the menu of any kind. This is the “No soup for you!” attitude found in restaurants that can get away with it — made popular in the 90s by an episode of “Seinfeld”. At the time, Orange was one of the most popular spots to eat near Boystown and the wait for a table stretched into hours. Come to think of it, almost all the restaurants in Boystown were always busy like that (more on this later).
Jason had no trouble ordering strictly from what was listed on the menu…but then he kept sending everything back to the kitchen for either being too cold or too hot or not-what-he-ordered. That last one is something I doubt most people would fault Goldilocks for, though, because if a guy orders basil-chai-stuffed-French-toast and instead finds Fruity Pebbles babycakes in front of him, then he certainly has the right to complain and get the breakfast he asked the waitress for in the first place. And right after that, if he’s straight, he should demand to know what the waitress is implying by insisting he should have babycakes off the children’s menu instead of his desired breakfast.
Ever since that morning with Jason at Orange, I’ve wondered if sometimes the universe sends people the wrong French toast on purpose.
Jason, oddly enough, later got incredibly sick (and was a giant baby about it, since we’re dishing the T-that-stands-for-Truth here)…and I wonder if it was the chai-stuffed nonsense that did it. Maybe the universe sent him the wrong French toast to spare him from whatever the heck knocked him on his butt for a week after that breakfast at Orange. Could the babycakes have averted disaster? Perhaps the oddball things that happen to us and any randomness that’s dished up really isn’t all that random at all…and the universe (or the Holy Spirit and a higher power, if that’s your personal belief) wants us to either learn something or appreciate the oddness as forewarning of some gathering doom.
I sincerely believe “the universe brought me the wrong French toast” five days ago when I went to the Chicago offices of the big law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson and discovered their lobby carpeting to be absolutely filthy…with their men’s washroom in even worse shape (stagnant water on the floor…feces bobbing in clogged toilets yellow with urine..mirrors streaked with grime…etc.). This experience launched my ongoing investigation into “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” that you are reading now.
I was asked to come to Hinshaw’s offices at 222 N. LaSalle in the Loop by Scott M. Gilbert, who is the attorney representing the largest and most prominent gay bar in Chicago in a discrimination suit filed against this defendant in federal court. The judge presiding over the case is widely considered by many in Chicago to be a future Supreme Court nominee…and I find myself to be one of the witnesses in the case who saw firsthand how the employees and owners of this gay bar consistently bully, harass, and persecute Christians (while in often the same breath hypocritically claiming that Christians are an “enemy of the gay community” who bully, harass, and persecute gays). Because of all this, the case is destined to hit the front pages in the months ahead, as it works its way to trial…since the stakes are so very high, with the Left’s ability to use gays as a weapon against Christians in jeopardy now that a Christian has taken a gay bar to court and called out its hypocrisy on the record.
Just imagine the ramifications of all this in the relentless war the Ministry of Truth that is our national media wages against all followers of Christ…because if Christians can stand up to gay bullies in the heart of Boystown, then perhaps Christian groups coast to coast will be emboldened to similarly stand up to bullying in the larger Culture War. I’m sure you’ve noticed that gays are terrified of saying anything ill towards Muslims, for instance; it’s reasonably to believe that’s because gays know that Muslims will push back against any perceived slights (and then some). Just imagine how different the world would be if Christians banded together and said in a very loud voice that “NO” it is just not acceptable for the “gay community” to continue using believers in Christ as a nonstop punching bag.
Considering this — and the fact that Mr. Gilbert knows I am a writer who incorporates experiences from his daily life into his essays and nonfiction book projects — it’s beyond shocking to me that Hinshaw & Culbertson would invite me to their offices and clear me through security when they’ve allowed their lobby and men’s room to become so filthy (as you can see in photos I snapped on my visit). I can’t imagine this was something intentional, and the staff I encountered were clearly embarrassed by the filthy carpeting in the waiting area…so I can only conclude the firm just doesn’t have the financial resources to keep the carpets clean and the washroom spotless (the way I’d expect in such a big law firm). This really is the best impression they seem able to make to visitors…and that’s horrifying for the state of our current Obama economy.
No reasonable person would ever believe that I wouldn’t write and tell people about the filthy lobby and men’s room I saw if I was asked to visit a business, whether it’s a restaurant, a hotel, a doctor’s office, or a law firm. If you know who I am and you’ve invited me over — and your carpet is still filthy and your washroom is still a disaster area — then I can only assume you just don’t clean these places (or if you did, then this was the very best you could ever do).
Contemplating this from a “wrong French toast” perspective and praying on it, I’ve concluded that Hinshaw & Culbertson’s filthy carpets and stinky men’s room was a collective message from the universe (by way of the Holy Spirit), meant as a warning sign that we’re close to the precipice of massive financial ruin in this country. It reminds me of restaurants I used to love that were almost impossible to score a table in…but are now either closed or have been relatively empty since 2008 or so. I also think about the places like Orange that are still in business, but now skimp on either service or the quality of ingredients…so everything has a dingy, downgraded feel where once I’d be absolutely blown away by polish and professionalism. I see this same phenomenon happening in stores along Michigan Avenue that are either shuttered or no longer spend any money on elaborate window displays; or it’s like condo towers that used to have doormen and spotless lobbies of their own, but now have automated entry systems and filthy vestibules. Some bars have downgraded from fancy snack mixes to stale peanuts or no bar snacks at all…and even the City of Chicago has doubled the cost of a train ride from the airport into the heart of the city (while simultaneously keeping its trains filthier and nastier than ever). It really feels like the world as we know it is falling apart because there’s just no longer any money left to keep everything working like it should.
That afternoon I spent a few days ago sitting on a couch waiting for Mr. Gilbert and staring at the filthiest carpet I’d ever seen in my adult life was a huge shock to my system…and, I think, a message from the universe that filthy carpet in a big law firm really is the 21st Century equivalent of canaries in a 19th Century coal mine.
Think about it…because I bet you’ll see it for yourself now that it’s been pointed out. And it’s one of those things that once you see, you can never un-see.
Those little birds in their cages were the early warning signs for miners that toxic gas was slowly filling up a tunnel…so when the canary dropped to the bottom of a cage the miners would race to the surface (or perish in the bowels of the Earth). Office workers today don’t have canaries sitting on their desks…but the health of their employers’ firms could realistically be measured by the upkeep, cleaning, and maintenance of the company’s public areas. Hotels and restaurants notoriously keep their “backstage” areas unfinished, with bare dry wall and scuffed floors because guests and clients never set foot back there. I have never worked in a law firm, but I have noticed on my visits to different ones that the work spaces of the attorneys are never as glamorous as the lobby and client waiting area. The only places most companies spend big money aesthetically are those that have a “pay off” on that investment…and that’s all geared towards giving visitors a strong and confident impression of the firm’s competence and financial viability.
It’s been my experience that the very last thing a company will cut before it starts a downward spiral into oblivion is the upkeep and maintenance of public areas reserved for clients, guests, and visitors. I’ve seen quite a few hotels, bars, movie theaters, stores, and restaurants go out of business…and invariably all of them became dirty and messy not long before they closed down for good. In retrospect, it was a canary-in-the-coal-mine type of warning that these businesses stopped spending money on cleaning and maintenance…since they just didn’t have the financial resources to keep their establishments looking good any longer.
I have no way of knowing what sort of predicament the big law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson is in right now in this Obama economy…but I just can’t imagine a big firm like this willingly allowing its lobby carpeting to become so filthy or for its men’s washroom to be such a mess unless the Senior Partners just can’t afford to keep their offices presentable any longer. And since they employ so many people, it’s scary to think of what will be cut next…if even a rented Rug Doctor carpet cleaner has become too big a luxury in a tightened budget.
I’d really like to hear from those of you out there who’ve noticed big firms like Hinshaw & Culbertson allowing their offices to become dirty and messy…and if you, like me, see this as a warning sign that the economy is in much greater jeopardy than our nonstop-propaganda “Ministry of Truth” national media leads us to believe. I think we are in uncharted territory here, folks…because even in recessions of the past I don’t remember a firm as big as Hinshaw & Culbertson ever allowing the offices of their corporate headquarters to become so filthy. If it’s already so bad that THIS is happening…then, Great Merciful Zeus, what’s next?
I don’t know a whole lot of lawyers but I’ve reached out to those in my life and have asked them what it would mean at their own firms if suddenly the place looked as terrible as Hinshaw’s Chicago offices. Over the last few days, I’ve written to cleaning experts Ann B. Davis and lifestyle expert “Heloise”, inquiring if they could possibly think of any tips for how a struggling business could find easier or more inexpensive ways to keep its office carpets and washrooms clean…but today I wanted to focus on asking an expert on law firms if he could see a “canaries in a coal mine” aspect to all of this the way I do. As noted, I don’t know a lot about how law firms work or the culture the Senior Partners set there, so I need some knowledgeable input in that regard. Yesterday’s letter to Heloise reminded me that John Grisham was once a guest of the hotel I worked at in Cleveland and that he seemed like a very nice and friendly man when I met him; so I decided to ask his opinion on all of this and see if ever he’d encountered anything like “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” while researching his own books (which are excellent, by the way, and are always exciting mysteries set in the legal world that often feature big firms like Hinshaw & Culbertson in some way).
VIA US MAIL — 2/24/2013
Mr. John Grisham
c/o Doubleday Speakers’ Bureau
New York, New York 10019
Dear Mr. Grisham,
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading your latest excellent book The Litigators…which was technically not your latest book, because you wrote one after this one that I didn’t much like and only got about 50 pages into. The Litigators was great fun, though, and I’ve actually read it twice because it’s set in Chicago and is about a guy who leaves a big law firm and goes to work alongside a pair of crackpots with a loudmouth receptionist from the Southside and some kind of dog. The big firm goes up against this ragtag bunch and that proves to be a spectacular miscalculation because, well, you wrote the book so you probably remember what happens.
I’m writing to you because I suddenly find myself in the bizarre situation of feeling like the protagonist in one of your books…where I arrived at the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson here in Chicago for an appointment with one of their partners last week and I happened to experience an epiphany about the current state of our dreadful national economy while staring at the filthy carpet in their waiting area (and then later enduring the conditions of their third floor men’s room, which could only be accurately described by someone such as Stephen King, whose imagination in the horror realm would no doubt do Hinshaw’s men’s room accurate justice). As I’m sure you and everyone at Doubleday are well-aware, I’ve been chronicling my development of the “filthy carpet in a big law firm” theory as a 21st Century version of “canaries in a coal mine”…and have kept track of my investigation in “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” (which I realize could easily become, at the very least, an eBook). I believe in times as perilous and strange as these that ordinary citizens should spend a little time working to solve various mysteries they encounter…and that none of us should ever be afraid of investigating something we find odd or scary in the course of our daily activities.
I’m really fortunate to have thousands of readers coast to coast here on HillBuzz.org who share my zeal for mystery-solving…but the one thing I really don’t have is any understanding of how a big law firm like Hinshaw & Culbertson operates or who makes the decision on something like allowing the lobby carpets to become filthy. I’m currently operating under the assumption that the only way a big law firm’s waiting area and men’s room could ever be allowed to degenerate into such filth is if the firm is struggling financially to the extent that they finally had to cut the cleaning and maintenance budgets down to next-to-nothing. Not being a lawyer or a paralegal or even a guy who has a lot of lawyer friends, I only have my experiences in hospitality and consulting firms to inform me in this matter. As I’ve written about in “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” so far, it’s just unimaginable for me to ever think of a business that would allow its public and guest/visitor areas to fall into such disrepair…unless the business is in some sort of downward spiral.
What I’ve always loved about your books is how you relate the goings-on and internal politics of large law firms to novices and “civilians” like me who have no experience with these places apart from reading your books. You have always made me feel like I was inside one of your excellent stories…and that’s never been more true than at this moment, when I feel like I’ve become a character from a “John Grisham novel” in real life. The only difference is that usually most of the lawyers in your books are Southern and I think everyone at Hinshaw & Culbertson is from around the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa tri-state area. The people in your books tend to have funny and colorful names, as well, while people at Hinshaw are called “Scott M. Gilbert” or “Donald L. Mrozek” or “J. William Rogers”, with only that last one being a good “John Grisham” sort of name (and if that was the case the “J” would stand for “Jupiter” or “Jaspar” or something sassy like that, only he’d go by the initial in his professional career so as to reserve the sassiness for his private endeavors).
My boyfriend’s mother CarolAnne, who thinks the government and other shadowy entities are forever plotting against her, has told me that she thinks I need to abandon “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” because she fears that Hinshaw is going to “send goons after (me)”; whenever she gets into something like this, I imagine there being a “Goon Store” adjacent to the neighborhood Petsmart where people can purchase (or possibly rent for the day) “goons” to use against their presumed victims. I told CarolAnne that the Hinshaw firm can’t even clean the carpets in their lobby or keep their men’s room tidy…so I highly doubt they have the budget to hire or purchase “goons”. All this sort of gives me an image of that Donald L. Mrozek guy standing in front of an open window in downtown Chicago encouraging underlings to “Fly, fly, fly my pretties!”…before a handful of interns and paralegals in ill-fitting monkey costumes with homemade, tinfoil wings take splat-destined leaps out into the brisk, winter air.
I do wonder, however, how one of the big law firms in your books like The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Associate, or The Rainmaker would address the fact that an essayist and political writer such as myself happened to observe (and photograph) filthy and unsanitary conditions in that firm’s national corporate headquarters. I know it’s pretty hard to scream “defamation!” against a journalist who has photographic proof of the story he’s covering, considering that every word in his report is 100% true. I’m also aware of “The Streisand Effect”, where arrogant people erroneously believe they have the power or resources to shutdown a story…but ultimately discover that in attempting to do so they only blasted the information they’re trying to hide to a much wider (and even global) audience. I’m not aware of any power that any authority has in the United States to prevent a journalist from speaking openly about things he observed with his own eyes and ears (and nose, in my case, because the washroom was really stinky)…not to mention photographed accurately.
I’ve heard that in Thailand the government there can come after anyone who is accused of insulting the King…and that, for instance, a journalist reporting on the filthy carpeting and stinky men’s room in King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Grand Palace on the Chao Phraya River (thank you, Wikipedia!) really has something to worry about. You’d know better than I, but I just don’t think Donald L. Mrozek in the Hinshaw & Culbertson offices near the Chicago River has a similar ability to prevent someone like me from expressing his First Amendment right to write and talk about the filthy carpeting and stinky washroom at his firm as much as he (or, rather, I) wants.
I know I will never have the chance to get to it, so if you ever feel inclined to add The Filthy Carpet to your row of titles alongside The Client, The Partner, The Runaway Jury and others — in the way of a heart-pounding, nonstop adrenaline account of a big law firm in Chicago that channels CarolAnne’s nightmares and sends “goons” out to harm or eliminate a journalist who exposed filthy and unsanitary conditions in their corporate headquarters — then I invite you to incorporate my experiences with Hinshaw & Culbertson into your next bestseller. I only ask that you send Misters Gilbert, Mrozek, and Rogers autographed copies because they don’t even have magazines for people to read in their lobby (so maybe people could read your books instead, which would distract them from the filthy carpeting).
I really think I’m on to something with my theory that “filthy carpets in a big law firm” is a real indicator of serious doom approaching in our economy…so I hope you will follow my work as I expound on this theory in the coming days. I plan on contacting leading experts in economics and politics — in addition to retired actresses from tee-vee shows I’ve always liked — to establish the meme that neglect and poor maintenance of office buildings in the year 2013 is a serious alarm we should treat in our country like an expired canary on the bottom of a miner’s gilded cage in a previous age.
Thanks so much for your very entertaining writing and for making almost all of your books excellent and engrossing reads…and for getting back to me soon with any insights you might have into why a big law firm like Hinshaw & Culbertson would purposefully allow their lobby and men’s room to be so filthy (when they knew full well they had visitors coming). I need your help in determining if anything other than a financial crunch and cutbacks in staffing or cleaning services is responsible for this…because my entire “filthy carpets in a big law firm” economic theory is based on the presumption that the only time a big law firm would become this dirty is if the firm was on the ropes and just couldn’t afford professional cleaning any longer. If that’s the case, then I think my theory will hold up when I put it before the experts in the days ahead (or, potentially, ask Marla Gibbs of The Jeffersons fame her opinion on the matter).
If you or anyone else at Doubleday know of any other reason at all that Hinshaw & Culbertson’s lobby carpet was so filthy and its washroom was such a stinky mess then I need to know that too. Whatever information you give me I will add to my investigation into ‘The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet’ and will share with my readership (who are all following this case closely).
Appreciating your help with the investigation,
PS — My favorite book of yours ever was The Associate. Please have that made into a movie starring Matthew Bomer at your earliest convenience. Also, while you are taking requests, please write a legal thriller with an attractive gay male lead character (who is neither a stereotype nor a joke) who could also be played by Matt Bomer in a movie. Give the character a sassy black female friend, a Siberian husky puppy that’s just being housebroken, an alcoholic neighbor who looks like Santa and has a wife that resembles Mrs. Claus, and a UPS driver who drops by with intelligence reports about the neighborhood (and have the driver’s name be “Gus”, which is also the name of the puppy…so when people talk about “Gus” doing something they’ll always be wondering if it’s the UPS guy doing it or if it’s the dog). Sorry if this is not specific enough for you to start with.
QUESTION for COMMENTS: What insight can YOU give into anything else besides financial difficulties that could explain why a big law firm would possess filthy carpeting and stinky washrooms in its national headquarters? Where do you think “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” should proceed tomorrow in the investigation?
To read the rest of “The Mystery of the Filthy, Filthy Carpet” click HERE.